A Night Hike for Newbies

Vista point view

This was a new night hike venue. KG, JO and I had scouted back on 6/28. Starting at 6:18, we explored the north east-west trail and went partway downhill, but the gate shown on the map seemed farther than it indicated. Along the way, several oak moths fluttered around, and we came upon a crane fly ovipositing in the trail. We retraced our steps and tried to find the Big Tree, which we had missed. It wasn’t obvious because many places were overgrown, but we found the trail, to the right of a telephone pole marked with an “8”. The old growth redwood is 14′ in diameter.

We took the trail heading back to the intersection where there is a house and garage. The trail heading south was thick with oats. Three darkling beetles, a Great Basin Wood Nymph, and an orb spider, probably Aculepeira, found habitat in the grassland. Young Red-tailed Hawks screamed. We found the vista point trail, through the grassland and woods. At 8:30 we reached the vista point, also overgrown, and we found a few ticks before having dinner. A bumble bee roosted on an oat stalk.

After dinner, some young raptors or owls screeched as we hiked uphill. We checked out the “other” vista point, west of the rocks. Besides the oats, the many thistles were prickly. Back at the intersection, we turned left to head towards the parking area. After passing through the redwoods with many small surprises (which we also saw on the real hike), we explored the trail heading west from the parking area. We went part of the way down, and found a trapdoor spider burrow and an occupied tiger beetle larva burrow.

Nocturnal tiger beetle larva

It took about a half hour to get back to Woodside.

On 7/20/12, we had the scheduled hike. A pleasant surprise when we arrived was the sight of a new porta-potty, probably left by the mowing crew. We only had one actual newbie on this hike. We had a total of five participants, four of which had been on our night hikes previously–but this was ok, because eleven of the people who had signed up for the hike did not show up. This is really a shame, because there were 40 people who called in about this hike, and 24 of them were waitlisted. The expected group of early arrivals was there, and we waited for others to show up. That didn’t happen, and after our usual introduction, we headed off at 6:35.

The hatched insect eggs that we’d found on our scouting hike were still there, on a small evergreen. We took a close look at those, and stopped for a few plants along the way. A little further, around 7:30, we’d stopped for something and when we started off, I noticed a small pit in the ground. I wondered at first if it was from someone’s hiking pole, but then I saw that no one in front of me had one. So I looked closer. I suspected that the bottom of the pit was occupied, so I tickled the edge of the pit with a piece of grass–and fine dirt flew up from the bottom. The others on the hike hadn’t seen this before, and were transfixed.

Antlion larva

After playing with the antlion larvae (there were several) and explaining what it was doing, I dug one out for everyone to see. After that, I returned the dirt to a short pile, and the antlion dug its way back in, backwards. Since this was the first antlion sighting that we’ve had in the preserves, it was exciting.

Some quail crossed behind us. Onward to the big tree at 7:35, where we spent a few minutes, then back up to the main trail. One of the participants spotted a rodent, and another, a click beetle. Under a piece of wood, a thread-legged insect hid. We didn’t know that’s what it was at the time, thinking it was a small stick insect (only about an inch long).  We reached the turn south at 8:05. We saw two darkling beetles, a mantis (Mantis religiosa, a non-native), and snake skin along the way. We got to the lichen rocks at 8:20 and decided to stop there for dinner because of the time. Sunset was close to 8:30. KG took part of the group to the vista point, and we kept in touch with FRS radios.

Crescent moon at sunset

While dusk settled, we heard a Great Horned Owl. Later, one flew up to a tree next to the trail. Both groups saw it. We started off again at 9:15. Close to the intersection with the buildings, we heard some unidentified bird calls coming from the east, which sounded seabird-like. Since we had heard young Red-tailed Hawks on our scouting trip, it’s possible it was them. Since they weren’t that close, it could also have been something else. We turned left to go under the redwoods.

Before we walked under the trees, we stopped to point out some constellations. Once under the redwoods, we found the many black and yellow millipedes (Harpaphe haydeniana) that we’d seen on our scouting hike, and the fluorescent greenish-blue color under UV helped us avoid stepping on them.

We arrived at the parking area at 9:55, with time to explore the other trail leading west. We found turret spiders and a tiger beetle larva, but couldn’t find the trapdoor spider burrow.

More photos are here.

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